Bonemap, Terrestrial Nerve 2012

sweet spot

audience responsive / intermedial performance installation

The idea of ‘the sweet spot’ derived as a term from the science of physics. It referenced a desirable situation in which the opportune solution occurs. It was not necessarily a tangible or physical ‘spot’, it was a numerical, indicative state. Sport and musical instruments, referred to the ‘sweet spot’ as having an affinity with the center of percussion, oscillation and other equations, presenting the ultimate highly desirable set of circumstance or ‘sweet’ state. The language of the term was synaesthetic, transferring the sense perception of a pleasurable and satisfying taste as ‘sweet’ to an optimal condition within the machinations of science and other phenomenon.1

Sweet Spot was an immersive experience of art that rearranged the conventions of how dance and media are staged, encountered and inhabited. Two large (floor to ceiling) cylinders of diaphanous material reflected projection mapped digital content and defined the production space. One of the cylinders was open for an audience participant to enter. Audience members for Sweet Spot arrived one at a time at 15 minute intervals. The experience was for one audience member, one performer and the interactive spatial translation of audio-visual media. The mesh cylinder, from the audience viewpoint, was a physical border beyond which the dancer inhabited a world of structural light and sound. The transparency of the border became visually permeable at times. At these times, the interaction between the audience and the performer was an improvised duet, elicited from the closeness and confrontation of the sudden gesture of bodily communication.2

The metaphor of Sweet Spot was a sensory feedback loop. The audience moved to effect changes in the digital audio-visual scenography; the performer reciprocated the audience member’s movements. The work was a machine or system that was inhabited by the movement vocabulary of the audience member. Its optimal state was a free interaction between the audience member and the performer. A dance made between strangers, mapped to the imaginary territory of a mixed-reality (virtual/real) space.

Sweet Spot projected a world of sound, light and colour generating the impression of a dynamic simulated atmosphere. Representations of ‘Backscatter’ luminosity, the molecular scattering of light in the atmosphere, mathematical expressions of the physical laws that govern the motion of material3 and fluid dynamics were generated in response to the presence of the audience member.4 A component of the simulation was the passing of variables generated by the audience member as they traversed the space within the mesh cylinder. 5 A thermal camera motion-tracking system tracked transverse movement and a wearable technology system produced variables through movement and rotation of the audience member’s wrist and arm. Consequently, these dynamic variables effected incremental change to the simulated state. The system represented the ‘sweet spot’ of interactivity through the measured ‘performance’ of the audience member.

Full text and citations available download PDF here (75k).

1 The 20th Century German dramatist Brecht suggested that the fusion of science into art, “In its transmuted form… gives the same type of satisfaction as any poetic work.” (Cited in Bial & Martin 1999: 26)

2 Helen Paris reflecting on her own intimate performances observed, “each time this border is made… permeable to allow performer and audience to meet… the relationship between audience member and performer is challenged… Negotiating the boundaries of how close is too close is a constantly shifting journey.” (Hill & Paris 2006: 190)

3 Adam 2011

4 Sweet Spot has some analogy to French artist Jacques Polieri’s conception of scenographic space as “the mobility and three-dimensional virtuality of the emission and reception of acoustic and visual data” into spatial forms. Polieri’s scenographic craft of the 1960’s and 70’s proposed “performance environments that oscillated between reality and imagination, science and fiction, theory and concrete space”(cited in Salter 2010: 53)

5 The Sweet Spot computational system follows the structure of a “simulation that has three parts: variables, a system and a state”. (Reas et al. 2010: 149)

sweet Spot, plan and 3d extruded view of the installation.


Research residency includes Russell Milledge and Rebecca Youdell artistic co-directors of Bonemap in collaboration with sound artist Steven Campbell and software programmer Jason Holdsworth at the JUTE Theatre, Centre of Contemporary Art Cairns, April 2011

Sponsors: RADF and Cairns Regional Council, Australia Council for the Arts, KickArts Contemporary Art, JUTE Theatre, School of Creative Arts JCU

Video documentation: